Jammin’

July 2, 2010

This weekend I will be celebrating the 4th of July in Hume Lake with the bf and his familia, sleeping under the stars and (hopefully) learning how to catch a fish. Last year was the first time I took part in this tradition of theirs and this year I wanted to bring something memorable and homemade to share with everyone. Since we’ll be traveling a long way to get there I didn’t want to bring a cake or something that would be difficult to travel with (picture a car full of luggage, sleeping bags, camping stuff and a dog) so I thought Jam might be a good idea since it’ll be nicely sealed in its individual jars  and I don’t have to worry about it getting ruined, eaten (by the dog or hungry travelers) or spoiled. I’d never made it before, but I thought to myself “How hard could it be?”

Well, I wouldn’t say it was easy, it definitely took some research and preparation to get the job done and it’s not something you want to just wing the first time around. I had a general knowledge of how I was going to pull this off, but in researching a bit more, I quickly found out that I knew nothing about making Jam. And why would I? I don’t harvest fruit or live in the country or even have a spot of dirt to grow fresh fruits or vegetables, so there’s never been a need to preserve what I had.

I learned there are steps that need to be followed very closely, and for me that’s difficult which is why I don’t like baking. I like to go with the flow and cook with whatever inspires me and what I happen to have lying around. Give me a step by step process and you lose me somewhere in all the details. Nonetheless, I was determined in making my fun little gifts and once it was all said and done, here’s the basics of what I learned:

  1. Be prepared. Have more jars ready than you think you’ll need.
  2. Do your research on proper Jammin. I found this site and this video really helpful.
  3. Buy a canning kit. I thought I could get by without one but I’m so glad I spent the few extra dollars on the equipment so I wouldn’t burn myself in the process. It turned out to be extremely essential.
  4. There are a lot of recipes out there for making Jam, but there are 4 key ingredients:  Fruit, pectin (sometimes found in the fruit itself), sugar, and acid (from lemon/lime or the actual fruit).
  5. Pectin is made from apples and comes in different forms (powder, liquid, etc.). It’s used to help set the Jam but some recipes substitute it with apple juice (not from concentrate) or even a gelatin. I found that store-bought pectin is the fool-proof method for setting your Jam. If not used, you might end up with different consistencies; which is fine depending on personal preference.

Since I couldn’t find a box of Pectin at my local grocers, I opted for apple juice and followed this basic recipe for a Rhubarb Berry Jam and used blackberries instead for a tangier fruit flavor.

I was nervous that my Jam would either 1. Burn or 2. Not set. But I didn’t burn it (thank goodness) and it set just beautifully! With those fears aside, I can finally say…

I Made Jam!

Just saying that brings a sense of accomplishment one can only fully appreciate after you’ve lined up your beautiful jars of homemade jam, perfectly preserved and so glamorously dressed; ready to be stored or given away.

Heres my Rhubarb Blackberry Jam in all its glory! I even found this cute red gingham fabric to cover them with and added a blue ribbon to dress it up. I love how stylish and oh- so- Americana they turned out.

This experience has only made me want to make more of my own jam, preserves and jellies. I’d also like to start pickling my own Jalapeños and perhaps my moms salsa. If I can get that stuff to last all year it would be well worth the effort.

So does this mean im a Jammin expert? I don’t I’ve earned that title yet… but I still want the cute T-Shirt!

PUMP UP THE JAM t-shirt – For all jammers! $22 at Pushcart Design.

Happy Independence Day Everyone!

Super Slaw

June 22, 2010

Part of our Fathers Day feast, this recipe comes passed down from a friend of my sister’s mother-in-law and it was definitely a big hit paired with the steak sandwiches we served.  The colorful Asian-inspired slaw with a peanut butter based dressing was a surprising twist to the usual mayo based cole slaw we all know and love. It pairs well with just about any barbeque dish and the dressing can be prepared ahead of schedule, which makes it a perfect side dish for any gathering.

Super Slaw

Dressing:

  • 6 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable (or grapeseed) oil
  • 5 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tbsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic

Salad:

  • 5 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
  • 2 cups  thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 large yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 6 green onions, cut in strips
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into strips
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Mix salad and toss in dressing 30 minutes before serving. Chopped peanuts can also be sprinkled on top for added texture and presentation.

There were 3 reasons to make this:

  1. I finally bought myself a cast-iron skillet! I was so excited about my purchase I think I told just about everyone (and now, the world). After no luck scowering garage sales and thrift stores looking for a skillet I could salvage, I decided to use a Williams Sonoma gift card I’d been holding onto for something special. I bought this one, and only ended up paying about $3 tax for it. Now I want to use it everyday!
  2. I dreamt of blueberry pancakes this weekend. They were piled high to the sky dripping in maple syrup and warm blueberries. Since then, I’ve been craving them. 
  3. Yesterday marked the first day of summer and a celebratory dish was in order.Since it’s still been a little gloomy lately, baking this pancake with fresh berries seemed the perfect fit.

Even with all my reasoning, something so simple and sweet really doesn’t need any excuses to be whipped up. Since I wasnt about to eat a sky-high pile of blueberry pancakes all by lonesome, I opted for this dutch version that can easily be cut up like a pie and even eaten as a dessert with some vanilla ice cream. So this was my summer solstice dinner… 🙂

 

Summer’s Dutch Baby Pancake

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Blend eggs, milk, flour, melted butter, sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Melt some butter in the skillet. Add berries, then add batter. Bake at 375 for 35 min. Dust with powered sugar when cooled.

*Add vanilla ice cream on the side for a simple dessert or maple syrup to top.

If you live on the Westside of Los Angeles, chances are you’ve heard of the cafe/art space inspired by Tokyo’s Akihabara district; if not, you’re hearing about it now and you MUST go check it out. Apart from the constantly changing art and the friendly waitresses dressed in french maid outfits, Royal-T has a unique and authentic menu that always keeps me coming back for more. One of my favorite things featured on their menu are the  Green Tea Soba Noodles; and after craving them for almost two weeks I decided to try to replicate the recipe myself.  Directly off their menu, here’s the description  I had to work with:

Green Tea Soba Noodles

with Market Vegetables, Mushrooms, Black Garlic and a Brown Butter/Oyster Sauce

Sounds simple enough…. except, what the heck is black garlic??

Here’s where I had to do a bit a research:

I found that Black garlic is a made by fermenting whole garlic bulbs at a high temperature which results in black cloves. This process not only gets rid of all the annoying stuff in raw garlic like the smell that lingers… and the bad breath that follows but its said to have twice as many antioxidants than its raw form.

It was first introduced to the US in 2008 and has become a sought after ingredient for high-end Asian cuisine. It tastes kind of syrupy, sweet and almost chocolate flavored (really nothing like garlic at all). I would say its closer to a tamarind paste (and maybe I’ll try it in my pad Thai!).  I called up my local Whole foods to see if they carried it and to my surprise, they had it in stock!

Next on my list was finding the green tea Soba noodles a.k.a Cha Soba Noodles.

You’d think the green tea version of these noodles would be just as readily available as their regular counterparts but turns out I could only find small packets of them at my local Japanese market. Even the teller was surprised that was all they carried. One brand, small quantities. So I bought 2 packs at $2.99 each, and went home ready to tackle this dish.

Here’s the recipe I concocted:

  • 1 packet green tea Soba noodles
  • Market fresh veggies of choice (I used asparagus and shiitake mushrooms)
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • sesame seeds
  1. Boil noodles for 5-6 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Saute asparagus and mushrooms in oil until cooked through.Brown butter in pan then add oyster sauce, garlic and soy sauce.
  3. Quickly toss in noodles and veggies. Top with sesame seeds to serve.

My plate

Simple and delicious! I love this dish because the ingredients are something completely new and authentic. It’s simple high-end Japanese cuisine at home. Enjoy!

Chicken Quesadillas

May 28, 2010

After making a whole 5lb chicken for two, we had PLENTY of leftovers. It was the bf’s great idea to make chicken quesadillas- or for me to make them- but I was gladly up for it!

One quick trip to Trader Joes later and I had the makings of a really yummy quesadilla.

Heres how it all came together:

  • 1 package of  rice tortillas (thought they were an interesting change)
  • 1 package of  shredded mexican cheese mix
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 diced tomatoes
  • sour cream
  • lime
  • Cayenne pepper- to taste
  • Leftover chicken

In a pan, saute the chicken, onion, garlic and cayenne pepper. Once the onions are cooked through, fill your quesadillas with cheese and flip as often as necessary until the cheese is melted. Cut and serve with sour cream, chopped tomatoes (or salsa) and drizzle with lime.

YUM.

As you may know, I recently acquired some fancy poultry seasonings from Dean & Deluca as a very sweet gift/ peace-offering from my roomie and I’ve eagerly been wanting to use them on something special. Well,  after coming across a recent article on The Kitchn for roasting a whole chicken in a bundt pan (yup, a bundt pan) I was  immediately hooked to the idea! Not only because I don’t have a roasting pan, but I loved the unique use of a pan that I only use maybe once or twice a year for actual baking purposes. Who doesn’t love a multi-functional kitchen tool?

I decided to use fingerling potatoes as my base with some chunks of onion in the mix. We (the bf and I) lovingly named our 5lb bird Jerard and began to butter him up (not sure why he has a Male name when chickens are obviously female).  After slathering him with butter, I added my fancy seasonings and minced garlic then stuffed him with lemon halves and rosemary. I then plopped  him onto the center piece of the bunt cake pan and stuck him in the oven (I know, I was kinda rough on him).

We left him in the oven at 450 F  for 15 minutes to brown, then turned the oven down to 350 F and let it roast for another 40-45 minutes, or until the skin started “puffing” .  Another way to check for doneness is to poke with a fork; if the juice runs a clear-yellowish color then it should be ready *Suggested from my Julia Child book I got for Christmas.

I didn’t have a thermometer on hand so I went about poking my bird every 10-15 minutes until I thought it was ready, but if you have a thermometer just roast it until it the breast registers 155 F. 

And here he is nicely plated with the potatoes perfectly cooked in the juices that fell off our bird along with my go-to simple salad. It was so easy and delicious! Feel free to share any other uses you think this pan could be used for. I’ve been brainstorming possible meatloaf or monkey bread options.

I BEG my mom to make this salsa for me all the time! It’s really addicting and goes great on almost anything. It was about time I stopped begging my mom to make it for me and and just learn to make it myself; she gladly shared with me the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 24 tomatillos (all about the same size)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 16 red chiles del arbol (dry)
  • 3 green onion
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • water for consistency- about 1/4 cup
  • salt to taste

Preparation:

Peel and wash tomatillos until they no longer feel slimy. Roast them along with the tomatoes and red chiles. *Make sure you have plenty of ventilation at this point. The red chilies can be a bit hard to handle when roasting.

Blend roasted tomatillos and set aside. Remove the skin of the roasted tomatoes then blend with the red chilies. Mix together with the tomatillos and stir. Add water for desired consistency.

Let cool (overnight is best) then add chopped cilantro, green chiles and salt to taste.